Discovery days at the bay
Temptation Sailing
Bay Discovery Centre
Proclamation Trail Marker
Tjilbruke Monument
Rodney Fox Shark Experience
Holdfast Bay

Bay Discovery Centre


WINNER! Heritage & Cultural Tourism category in the 2004 South Australian Tourism Award.

Bay Discovery Centre








Tourism Award Logo


Latest News!

Click here to view the current media releases:
Media Release for Mezzanine Gallery - current exhibition - Signature and Forescast Media Release -Signature and Forescast (130 kb)  
Media Release - Walking Art Guide click here to download the file (126 kb)

Archives: To search through the Media Release archives click here.



Historic Glenelg Town Hall takes pride of place as the home of the Bay Discovery Centre, a social history museum interpreting the cultural heritage of Holdfast Bay.

Just hop on the famous Glenelg tram in the city at Victoria Square and at the end of the line you will find yourself in Moseley Square, across from Adelaide's best seaside attraction - the Bay Discovery Centre. In addition to the fantastic multimedia exhibitions, we also have a mezzanine gallery which features a program of visual art exhibitions supporting and promoting the work of South Australian artists. Our award winning Volunteer team takes care of our front of house operations and will make you feel at home with a friendly smile and helpful information that only locals can provide.

The Glenelg Town Hall building was erected in 1877 and is a key feature of the Glenelg foreshore. Originally the Glenelg Institute, Sir Henry Ayers laid its foundation stone in December 1875 and the building was opened in October 1877 by the Governor Sir William Jervois. Designed by Edmund Wright and built by David Miller at a cost of 6000 pounds, the building today features extensions on its western side, a clock and cupola. The Glenelg Council acquired the Institute in 1886-7 and converted it to the Glenelg Town Hall, ensuring that all ratepayers were obliged to contribute to ongoing costs.

Also located in the building is Rodney Fox Shark Experience Museum and Gift Shop and the Thai Jasmine Restaurant.


Volunteers are on hand at the entrance to Glenelg Town Hall to provide information about attractions, Jetty Road shops and restaurants and the history of Holdfast Bay. They also work in the Bay Discovery Centre's exhibition areas to help make your visit more enjoyable.

Bay Discovery Centre 


Voyage and Arrival

Take a step back in time to discover Holdfast Bay's unique place in South Australia's history, as the site of early European settlement and where the colony officially began. The area we now know as Glenelg was home to Aboriginal people for thousands of years and known to them as Patawilya, meaning gum tree scrub.

There is room for all and all (except the bad) are wanted."

Unlike the other colonies of Australia, South Australia was populated by free settlers. Learn about the very beginnings of the colony and the journey to the new land which promised to rescue many from the hardship and poverty of Britain after the Industrial Revolution.

The South Australia Act passed in 1834 enabled the Crown to establish the new province of South Australia, which would be settled according to the Wakefield Scheme. Land would be sold at a minimum price in a well-ordered fashion and the proceeds used to pay for workers and their families to immigrate to the new colony. Authority in the colony would be shared by the Governor and Resident Commissioner.



Colonel William Light - Soldier/Surveyor/Founder of a City

By the time the first settlers had arrived at Glenelg, Holdfast Bay, a small settlement had already been established by the South Australian Company at Kingscote, Kangaroo Island. Surveyor General Colonel William Light was commissioned by the British Government to select the site where the new official settlement would begin. He explored the coast, including Rapid Bay and Yankalilla before advising the settlers to disembark at Glenelg, Holdfast Bay, so named for its safe anchorage.

Light also chose the site of the new capital, Adelaide, laid it out and surveyed hundreds of thousands of country acres. Unfortunately he did not live long enough to see the colony prosper. The man now known as the Founder of Adelaide died from tuberculosis in 1839. The Africainse commanded by Captain John Duff carried the first immigrants to the new colony and anchored offshore in Holdfast Bay on 8 November 1836.



The Proclamation

It wasn't until 28 December that the first official ceremony took place near a bent gum tree. Governor Hindmarsh's proclamation was read by the Colonial Secretary Robert Gouger and called upon the colonists to conduct themselves "with order and quietness, duly respect the laws and by a course of industry and sobriety, by the practice of sound morality, and a strict observance of the Ordinances of Religion, to prove themselves worthy of a great and free colony."

Furthermore, the Governor would "take every lawful means for extending the same protection to the NATIVE POPULATION as to the rest of his Majesty's subjects and … punish with exemplary severity all acts of violence or injustice which may in any manner be practised or attempted against the natives".

Within a few years of 1836 the local Aboriginal population had been decimated and the survivors scattered. Although many people had tried to treat Aboriginal people well, they imposed foreign laws, education, religion and customs and moved the people onto reserves and missions. Kaurna culture, however still survives and grows.

The Old Gum Tree is still celebrated as the site of the Proclamation and on 28 December each year, the Governor, Premier and Mayor of the City of Holdfast Bay lead the official ceremony in Mc Farlane Street Glenelg North.



Settlement to Federation

Until the Federation in 1901 each of the Australian states was a separate colony. Key players in the Federation movement are celebrated in the exhibition.

The figure of Charles Cameron Kingston looms large in the Bay Discovery Centre exhibitions as aforgotten Father of Federation. He was an astute and intellectual politician who was instrumental in drafting the Commonwealth Bill and the longest serving Premier in the twentieth century. He was also responsible for many reforms, including women's right to vote in 1895 and the establishment of a state bank.

His father George Strickland Kingston was Deputy Surveyor in command of the Cygnet which landed in Holdfast Bay on 5 November 1836. The Kingston family's holiday house, now known as Kingston Historic House is the oldest building in Holdfast Bay.



A Place by the Sea

Over the decades following arrival, the European colonisers established Glenelg as a thriving seaport. Glenelg has always been a holiday destination for the people of South Australia, largely developed around the holiday houses built by a wide cross section of the community. Over the years, various attractions have also contributed to the unique seaside atmosphere of the Bay, including the Glenelg Baths, Brighton Bathing Boxes, the Glenelg Pavillion and Aquarium once part of the old jetty, Luna Park in the 1930s and still standing today, Rodney Fox Shark Experience, the new Beachouse and of course, the Bay Discovery Centre.

Over the years, Holdfast Bay has altered beyond recognition. From tents and reed huts, to the apartments of Holdfast Shores, from thatched grog shops to the Grand and the Oaks Plaza Pier Glenelg... from itinerant hawkers to the bustle of Jetty Road Glenelg and village charm of Jetty Road Brighton. Love of the sea continues to draw large numbers of locals and visitors who enjoy the wide sandy beaches where they swim, stroll, dangle a line off the jetty, windsurf or play volleyball.

Back to top

Bay Discovery - photo 4 


Mezzanine Gallery

Take a look at our mezzanine gallery, where you will see exhibitions by emerging and established South Australian artists. Watch this space for our 2004 exhibitions calendar. Artists featured in our previous exhibitions have included David Archer, James Evan Jones, Abbas Mehran, Andrew Baines, Robin Best, Norm Hamdorf, Gerry Wedd, Leo Neuhofer, Deb Sleeman, Jon Carl and Bill Buter.

We are always looking for promising and established artists whose work responds to or reflects the themes in our exhibitions, or links with festivals and events. If you would like to exhibit in our mezzanine gallery, please contact Marianne Norman, Manager Bay Discovery Centre, or telephone (08) 81799504.



Helen Fuller Gouache on Paper
Helen Fuller -
'Gouache on Paper', 2005


"Hazy Days" - a SALA Festival exhibition about growing up at Glenelg by Helen Fuller and Christine McCormack
4 August - 1 October

Helen Fuller and Christine McCormack grew up in Glenelg, and its varied charms had a significant impact on their lives. Helen combines collage, photography, painting and installation techniques with her eclectic approach. Using her own 1961 class photo from Glenelg Primary School, she will ask "Where are they now?", inviting visitors to contribute information about the girls featured in the class photo by writing notes and inserting them in tea cups. Helen is also exhibiting a series of her recent paintings which draw on her memories of gingham cross-stitched aprons. Christine McCormack's deliciously surreal still life paintings also reference her own and others memories of the Bay. She is also exhibiting a series of beach buckets encrusted with shells and an assortment of evocative "trinkets" collected over many years.


Sea Hunt Bucket - Christine
Christine McCormack -
'Sea Hunt Bucket' - Mixed Media 2006



"Anytime" - Photographs of Glenelg by Cameron Lewcock
6 October - 3 December 2006

Cameron is co-owner operator of Zest Cafe Gallery in Glenelg and being a local, appreciates the Bay for those elements that many of us take for granted - the "close-ups" that we see everyday but don't necessarily acknowledge. "I'm documenting Glenelg from the viewpoint of looking at it from outside it's 'sweet spots', those areas where light, attention and activity generally converge. It isn't grubby so much as patinated and layered in my eyes. This is the Glenelg available to me anytime when I really look".


Cameron Lewcock-Anytime
Cameron Lewcock,
'Anytime' photograph, 2006


Bruce Martin-Shark Head
Bruce Martin - Mixed Media Sculpture 'Shark Head', 2006


"Washed Up" - Solo exhibition by Bruce Martin
8 December 2006 - 11 February 2007

Winner of the Sculpture category in the 2005 Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, Bruce Martin's love of surfing, beachcombing and exploring coastlines of the southern oceans has provided both the inspiration and the materials that form the basis of his art. Recycling this flotsam and jetsam into works of natural beauty and humour provide insight into the artist's enduring relationship with the ocean.


To view the "Previous Exhibitions" click here.

Back to top



On The Beach

On the Beach - a FREE walking guide to the public art & design works located at Glenelg, Holdfast Bay.

This guide is an initiative of the City of Holdfast Bay supported by Holdfast Shores and Jetty Road Glenelg Mainstreet Board. It provides visitors to Glenelg with an alternative view of this strip of coast known more for its controversial building development than for its cultural pursuits. It also promotes more than 17 of South Australia's most talented artists and designers working in the public realm. The full colour guide features photographs accompanied by artist statements and will be available for free at the Bay Discovery Centre and other local venues.

The following works and artists are featured:

Rhythm SculptureThe Pioneers' Memorial was erected in 1936 to commemorate the founders and pioneers of the colony. Located in front of the Grand Hotel, renowned sculptor Greg Johns' made his much-admired sculpture "Rhythm" in 1978, his first public commission (pictured right). Named after the renowned early twentieth century aviator, Jimmy Melrose Park is an environmental/landscaping project designed by landscape architect Stuart Heseltine, with elements by designer/manufacturer Greg Healey and signage by David Zhu.

The Holdfast Shores Public Art works were developed through a partnership between the City of Holdfast Bay and the Holdfast Shores Consortium. Adelaide's Brecknock Consulting coordinated the project which features the work of these South Australian artists - Mark Blackman, Neil Cranney, Greg Johns, Leslie Matthews, Leo Neuhofer, Marijana Tadic, Andrew Stock, Greg Healey, Deb Sleeman, Trevor Wren and Gerry Wedd.

Also located at Holdfast Shores is Anton Hart's "Chorus of Stones", a war memorial commissioned by the City of Holdfast Bay with support from Woodhead International and the RSL to pay tribute to the Anzacs. Along Jetty Road, murals by local artists Jane Smeets and Jillian Higgins feature beach scenes while Cameron Lewcock's trompe-l'oeil mural at Zest Cafe is a food lover's take on the old hop scotch game.

To download the guide click here: On The Beach - Walking Guide On The Beach - Walking Guide (194 kb)

Back to top



Heritage Trails

Choose from one of our two heritage trails to explore the outdoors and discover more of Holdfast Bay's heritage. Brochure style maps can be collected from the Bay Discovery Centre.

The award winning Federation Trail is an innovative way to learn about the past from the comfort of your own vehicle. Just 'tune in' your radio to 92MH on the FM Band and as you approach the marker at each site you will hear stories relating to the past and present of Holdfast Bay. Features on the trail include the "Old Gum Tree", grand houses such as Partridge House and Paringa Hall, the Air Raid Shelter at Glenelg Oval, Brighton Sand Dunes, St Judes Cemetery and Kingston Historic House, the oldest building in Holdfast Bay. The stories recorded for each historical site are informative and entertaining, featuring the talents of local theatre group St Judes Players.
Please note: Our Federation Trail is currently out of action due to technical difficulties. We are in the process of reinstating the trail to provide our visitors with an exciting and alternative way of exploring Holdfast Bay - Watch this space.
In the meantime, download our Federation Trail brochure click here (284 kb).

The Proclamation Trail is a 3.5km self-guided trail through Glenelg, starting at the Town Hall. Suitable for pedestrians and cyclists, the trail features 8 sites significant to the cultural heritage of Holdfast Bay.
You can see the site known as the "first landing" of the first settlers in 1836 on the foreshore, later to become the location of shark-proof baths for men in the early 1900s and now adjacent to Holdfast Shores. Further along the trail, cross the weir and lock at the mouth of the Patawalonga creek and stop at North Esplanade where the sandhills and houses that replaced them after World War 11 have endured many storms and even a hurricane. You then cross "the Pat" and see the replica of the Buffalo and the area once used as a gathering place for Aboriginal people up until 1899, Patawilya Reserve.
The trail also takes you to the "Old Gum Tree" and through the streets of the original township of Glenelg and finishes in Colley Reserve, which over the years has been the site of amusement centres, fun parks, concerts and the famous Bay Sheffield foot race.
To view the Proclamation Trail Brochure click here (210 kb).

Back to top



Just a short tram ride from the city of Adelaide, The Bay Discovery Centre caters for individual visitors, coaches, school groups and local history groups. For large groups, please book well in advance.

The Bay Discovery Centre is open daily, except Good Friday, Christmas Day and New Year's Day from 10am to 5pm.

The Bay Discovery Centre is funded by the City of Holdfast Bay and Commonwealth Government through the Federation Fund.


Bay Discovery Centre

Glenelg Town Hall
Moseley Square,
Glenelg SA 5045
Enquiries: (08) 8179 9500
Weekends and public holidays: (08) 8179 9508

Back to top


To download the
Bay Discovery Centre Brochure
click here.


Accreditation Logo 

Small Tourism Award Logo


Centenary of Federation

Top of Page

Last date modified: 1:40 PM 8 Sep 2006  CopyrightCreditsDisclaimerPrivacy







Quick Stuff


Tourism & Business Development

Welcome to Our Bay